1) A perfect time to try and reclaim our home form as everybody is firing on all cylinders
The wait for fans to be allowed back into the King Power goes on, but this was a vital win for the Foxes. The home form has been a concern, mainly to do with the lacklustre performances as much as the results. Not only was this three points, but it was a brilliant team display.
It’s a difficult balance to try not to get carried away with the table and talk of title race contention, but we can’t ignore the table and the achievements so far either. The upcoming fixtures of Everton, Tottenham and Manchester United look tough. We should be going into the run with some renewed confidence after this match.
It’s the 5th anniversary of this tweet, so let’s try again. If @LCFC win the @premierleague I’ll do the first @BBCMOTD of next season in just these undies. https://t.co/HcWw3KFHyv pic.twitter.com/0Agk9VgV2d— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 14, 2020
Well now he’s done it!
There were various masterclasses on show and we’ll get into some of them specifically, but does anything (or anyone) sum up a Leicester performance like this more than Jamie Vardy? This was a blueprint display on maximising what you do with the ball, rather than how many times you touch it. More shots than touches in the first half? Why not! It took our system change to really get him involved, but as his goal showed he only needs one moment, one second of catching defenders napping and one cross.
Now can people please stop debating whether he is world class (tell me how you get those stats otherwise!) and just give him the respect he deserves?
2) One tactical switch, one key performance from James Justin
This felt like a game Brendan Rodgers had been anticipating tactically and one in which he showed that we are a side willing, and trained, to adapt. His one decision, halfway through the first half, was to switch the system. Moving to a more familiar shape and swapping James Justin onto the right in a more familiar right-back role, moving Marc Albrighton out to the left wing.
Who else is smug because they have him in their Fantasy Team? He was a £4.9m bargain!
We already know that’s a move that suits Albrighton whose effort and work rate never wanes, but it was a key move for Justin. It wasn’t that he’d had a poor start, but it was only when he got on the right that he came alive and started causing Brighton a lot of issues, something they couldn’t handle in the first half and didn’t entirely address in the second either.
This Leicester squad has needed to be versatile this campaign but Justin epitomizes that; the only player who has started every single game due to our shortages and as a result of his ability to slot in on the left or the right and into practically all our systems. Not all of those positions have suited him, but he’s never faltered in effort and willingness to learn. He talked before about getting as much as he could from young players like Ben Chilwell who’d come through and had to learn fast.
Arguably Justin’s best display in a Leicester shirt yet, and he’ll be overshadowed by how great the whole side was and the magical performance by James Maddison, but he was superb. Maturing with every game and more than coming into his own. He deserved a goal to go with his assist.
3) The James Maddison show was exhilarating
Madders may as well have screamed this before his second goal. It had already been a great spell for the Foxes, but he took it up another notch! This was a magnificent display from the Englishman. It’s been an asset to have him back and fully fit and this game was his best yet. He’s taken his fair share of criticism lately, and seems to take a lot of flack from non-Leicester fans who insist he’s overrated. Strangely, they were nowhere to be found after this game!
Maddison was another beneficiary of the change in system. It helped unshackle him even further and he showed exactly why Rodgers considers him instrumental to our style. Managers don’t often get remembered for goal celebrations but their embrace after his first was cute.
His partnership with Vardy continues to flourish, but his understanding with Ayoze Perez and James Justin also paid dividends last night. It’ll be Maddison’s second goal that takes the headlines, deservedly too, as it was a superb strike after he tricked and teased the Brighton defenders into leaving him the perfect space to curve it in. The build up play surrounding it was just as pleasing too.
James Maddison v Brighton:— 10bet (@10betSports) December 14, 2020
84% pass accuracy
21 passes in the final third
3 shots on target
The Foxes' no. put on a show last night! pic.twitter.com/at78NFLshL
Yet again, he proved to be a creative joy. He provided another excellent post-match interview too, showing an interest and understanding in the tactical side of the game, and bringing the usual charisma and charm to it. I was definitely entertained.
4) Too soon for another centre back shortage? Not at this club!
For all the positives last night, there was one negative. It may have rather slipped past the commentators radar, they can be forgiven slightly because we gave them a lot to talk about, but Jonny Evans picked up his fifth yellow card against Brighton. It was an inevitable suspension and on the one hand it’s great to get it out of the way pre-Christmas, but it doesn’t leave us with many options in the middle again.
We could see a Big Wes, Little Wes special again depending on how Rodgers wants to line up against Everton. He’d mentioned Çağlar Söyüncü being back soon but this may be a little too soon. Unless we feel like throwing Ndidi back in there?
The players we’ve had to do without for so long are on the way back, but with such a clustered period of games, we aren’t entirely out of the danger zone yet defensively. All it would take is one knock or one more suspension and we look thin on the ground again. Not that it will get mentioned by most, maybe if we as a team made a big song and dance of it?
5) Brendan Rodgers’ man management skills should become even more apparent as December’s games ramp up
I’ve got a lot of time for a manager who is excellent at the man-managing side. It can often be the undoing of a tactically astute manager if they can’t nurture players or manage those whose game time would be limited. Rodgers seems to be excellent in this department regardless of the individual, which is particularly helpful for our relatively young squad that is full of hungry players.
Maybe I’m biased as it’s how I would like to be should I ever manage a football team, but his management of Maddison in particular. Their hug after his first goal and the arm around him at the end. It can’t be difficult to manage and to love Maddison, he’s got that kind of personality to boot with his skills, but it can make the difference between us losing a player of that calibre or him wanting to stay and help realise the manager’s ambitions.
Managing this group and getting the best out of them, factoring in rotation, the fact that we have players on the way back who’ll want to take places back from others who have put in a strong case to keep theirs, makes this a tough few weeks for Rodgers. One little comment he made post-match that he felt we could have been even more clinical and got more goals suggests he’s very ready for this. It also explains why he and Kasper Schmeichel get on so well, both perfectionists.
Bonus Learn: Speaking of Kasper Schmeichel, he didn’t have too much to do last night after twenty minutes, which we owed him for a couple of early saves. He got a clean sheet, but you bet I didn’t miss the glorious moment when one of our guys let Brighton surge forward and he let loose on them verbally. Never doubt his concentration or passion!